Voter-fraud allegations dismissed in Kahn-Noor race

Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Mohamud Noor

A Minneapolis mailbox center is no longer at the center of voter-fraud allegations in a contentious race for a Minnesota House seat — but the controversy has stirred anger in local Democratic circles and shaken up the city’s Somali community.

At an administrative hearing Thursday, Hennepin County investigators and election officials cleared up questions about a group of improperly registered voters in the DFL primary race for House District 60B. The petition was filed by Brian Rice, an attorney for state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who is facing the toughest re-election campaign of her 42-year legislative career, against Somali challenger Mohamud Noor.

The allegations started as hundreds of people showed up at Minneapolis City Hall in late June to take advantage of Minnesota’s no-excuse absentee voting laws. The same day, Rice filed a complaint noting that more than 140 voters were registered at a mailing center at 419 Cedar Ave. S., which is not a proper residence. At the time, Rice raised the specter that Noor’s campaign had a hand in improperly registering the voters. 

But Dan Rogan, an attorney in the civil division of the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, said Thursday that they found “no evidence of organized or coordinated” efforts to have people registered at the mailing center address. In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

The county sends out postcard notifying voters that their registration information has been changed, but the notice is only sent out in English, said Hennepin County Elections Director Ginny Gelms. Many of the residents in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood where the center is located are Somali immigrants, some who speak limited English.

All 141 voters registered at the mailbox center will have to re-register to vote using their home address, Hennepin County Auditor Mark Chapin said. 

Though the mailbox voting issue has been resolved, Omar Jamal, a prominent Somali activist and figure in the city, said the allegations have sent “tremendous fear” through the Somali community. Many are afraid they will be arrested for voting improperly, he said. He cited parts of Rice’s petition implicating Noor’s campaign in the effort, and called on the Kahn campaign to apologize for the confusion. “It’s a dirty political game to scare off the community,” Jamal said.

Sherri Knuth, policy and outreach manager for the Minnesota League of Women Voters, said Rice’s knee-jerk allegations of voter fraud garnered headlines, and briefly tarnished the state’s election process. She said he should have “learned the facts first.” Republicans have already used the complaint as evidence that the state needs tighter voting laws.

But Rice said he wouldn’t have done anything differently. “We’ve cleared up an important matter,” he said. “You’ve got to vote where you live and live where you vote.”

Rice also argued his complaint demonstrated that the state’s election laws works. “That’s an absolute fundamental piece of our Democracy,” he said.

There are more outstanding complaints in the primary race, which has been heated since February, when a precinct caucus ended in violence and allegations of bullying and threats. 

Kahn’s campaign has filed a petition with the state Supreme Court alleging that Minneapolis election judge Fadumo Yusuf favors Noor, and asked voters at city hall if they wanted to vote for  “our Somali brother” or “the old Jewish lady.” Under state law, election judges must be neutral. Yusuf is denying the allegations.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/11/2014 - 08:06 am.

    No one should listen to Rice again

    Despite his spin, Rice made a specific charge. He not only failed to produce evidence, but the charge has been disproven. His credibility should be gone.

    Same applies to the conservative voter fraud fraudsters who jumped on this as proof. Of course, since this has happened multiple times before and the credulous press still listens, I hold out little hope we won’t go through this again.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 07/11/2014 - 09:30 am.

    So where are the findings of that St. Paul police investigation?

    Where did the money come from to pay the thugs at that primary caucus on the West Bank ?? They were reported to have complained that $20 was not enough pay.

    The investigation was referred to the St. Paul Police.

    How long does it take to investigate this ?? Or is there some foot-dragging going on here ??

    The results could prove dispositive of the election campaign for this seat. I certainly wouldn’t vote for anyone whose campaign paid people to disrupt a caucus with threats of violence and intimidation, even if the candidate denies personal involvement.

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/11/2014 - 10:35 am.

    The weak voter fraud claim

    Time and again the politicians that lose claim voter fraud, but can’t come up with any proof. It isn’t voter fraud, it’s the politician’s egos that cause the disbelief that they lost. They can’t go to the fact that they lost contact with their constituents or that they were on the wrong side of key issue. It can only be voter fraud. It is a tired, costly, political excuse. Face it, House District 60B has a new Representative. If Rep. Noor does good, rejoice. If he does poorly there is another election in the future, that’s the way America works.

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 07/13/2014 - 01:16 pm.

      Folks can face whatever come August 12 when the polls close and the votes are counted, but I cannot see Mr. Christensen facing much but a mirror or crystal ball.

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 07/11/2014 - 10:45 am.

    I’m shocked there is voter fraud (Casablanca…)

    Our SOS has not investigated the returned voter cards with no such address, has not investigated investigated the returned voter cards with no such person at an address, etc. Why should we be surprised at this ruling when the direction from the SOS is so clear?

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 07/11/2014 - 11:15 am.

      From the article…

      “…Dan Rogen, an investigator in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, said Thursday that they found “no evidence of organized or coordinated” efforts to have people registered at the mailing center address. In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”

      The title is also “Voter-fraud allegations dismissed in Kahn-Noor race”

      There is no voter fraud here.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 07/11/2014 - 11:47 am.

      It’s funny

      the only time I ever see voter fraud committed is by republicans, such as what happened in Wisconsin recently…or by the former Indiana Secretary of State. Are you “shocked” by that too?

  5. Submitted by Linda Miller on 07/11/2014 - 10:51 am.

    It is too bad

    this whole thing seems to be a mess and I really have very little sympathy for Phyllis Kahn. She is a good example of someone who has been in office for far too long and now feels entitled to the seat.
    She should focus on issues and stop this.

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 07/13/2014 - 01:26 pm.

      I don’t know or care what Linda Miller is a “good example of,” but in the last twenty years I have been represented by Phyllis Kahn, I have never seen her complacent about any issue or sensed she feels entitled to her seat. We do not always agree, but she has a command of the issues and her job that few can equal and Mohamud Noor may never come close to for as long as he lives (I like him, but wish he had stuck with the school board seat).

  6. Submitted by Kevin Smith on 07/11/2014 - 11:32 am.

    Ms Kahn wins a big one for conservatives

    It’s becoming harder to be proud to be a Dem in this city. First we assure N. Mpls will continue to languish by electing a Mayor who doesn’t know there are neighborhoods north of 394 / east of 35W and now a “progressive” liberal casts aspersions on an entire culture that’s already demonized AND she single-handedly accomplishes the neo-cons goal of “proving” minority voters can’t be trusted.

    We’ve strayed pretty far from Democratic icons such as Humphrey, Mondale, Fraser and others who sought to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Time to step down Ms Kahn or consider changing parties.

  7. Submitted by Peter Mikkalson on 07/11/2014 - 04:09 pm.

    OMG!

    After forty-two years in that dis-functional legislature, it’s time to move on!

  8. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 07/12/2014 - 02:09 pm.

    Typical

    Liberals have convinced minorities that they are incapable of handling their own affairs and need their safety net in order to function. This is a huge embarrassment to the hierarchy of the DLF that a minority has the nerve to challenge one of their established career politicians.

    I’d like to correct the author who refers to Mr. Noor as “Somali.” We aren’t doing these people favors by collectivizing them. He’s an American just like the rest of us. Let’s refer to him as that

  9. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 07/12/2014 - 06:54 pm.

    it’s amazing, that this article, and most of the comments on it, seem to minimize the important registration mistake–and its fundamental underlying ignorance of what American elections are about–that these apparently non-English-speaking potential voters made. All together. They listed a communal mailing address as their residence. They didn’t understand that where you actually live is a vital aspect of whether and where you vote.

    They committed a legal error, and their registrations were all cancelled as a result. (This datum is hard to find in this biased “news” piece.) They couldn’t read or understand an official card that came to them about their registration.

    Rice noticed an huge anomaly in registrations and absentee ballots. It’s not his fault that those legal errors were made. He simply caught a large segment of potential voters in legal error. How does that make him the Bad Guy? Or Phyllis Kahn?

    Or, does the author of this article prefer that there be a lot of illegal registrants in District 60B’s primary and general election?

    • Submitted by Bill Kahn on 07/13/2014 - 06:36 pm.

      It was a simple problem with simple solutions blown out of all proportion by a Minneapolis lawyer who could have simply pointed it out and let the system work. I think everyone understands from this article and others before and after, what the problems are. It was not “a huge anomaly,” especially as compared to the new citizens in this part of the district: it was a pitifully small one. This small problem was blown out of all proportion.

      Both camps have significant support in the Somali community, each member of which deserves the right to vote for whomever they wish. These folks screwed up in the duty associated with this right in registering, but we don’t need attorneys or folks who believe in denying the vote to all sorts of citizens, creating fear and kerfuffle–we need to help them vote.

      It is too bad that the language and registration difficulties along with the incidents at the DFL precinct caucus at the Brian Coyle Center, happened, but we have to get through this as best we can. Some people provide proximate ‘help’ that ultimately hurts, and that is bad. All the talking heads are giving both candidates black eyes when they should be getting out the vote.

      Both sides have to decide what will hurt them more, alienating one or more communities in the district with this stuff to keep people from voting or mobilizing their opposition to vote.

      The alleged problem election judge is a concern, but it is also something likely to be worked out before the primary.

      I would hate this primary to be identified with xenophobia and bigotry on any or all sides.

  10. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/13/2014 - 06:34 pm.

    This

    I don’t think there’s a Big Bad Wolf here. The problem is that a lot of people failed to properly register. It WAS an anomaly that needed to be reviewed. There was no ill intent on the part of the registrants, I would assume, and likely no ill intent on the part of Kahn’s campaign. Kahn isn’t a horrible representative–she’s done a fantastic job. I only hope that whoever fills the seat after the elections can continue the good work.

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